Against The Ropes

The delayed “Against the Ropes” finally gets its day in theaters and is well worth the wait. The film has been completed for over a year, but has sat unreleased waiting for a time that would be conducive to a good opening.

Normally this is a sign of a flop in the making but I am happy to say that the film delivers and is easily the best boxing film since the original “Rocky”
Inspired by the life of Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan); the film tells the story of how Kallen became a power player in the male-dominated world of boxing. Kallen was behind many successful boxers such as Tommy Hearns and Andrew Toney to name a few.

The story centers on the discovery of a promising unknown named Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), a tough but intelligent man from the inner city who Kallen sees as a person with championship potential. Shaw is skeptical of Kallen as he knows that Larocca (Tony Shalhoub) runs boxing in the area. Larocca has gone out of his way to ensure that Kallen does not get a fight organized, as he does not want to see her succeed. The animosity between them dates back to a bet Larocca made that Kallen could not do a better when she offered Larocca some advice on how to help a fading boxer.

The charm and tenacity of Kallen pays off and she is able to setup a fight for show and proceeds to train him with the help of veteran trainer Felix Reynolds (Charles Dutton). Before long, Shaw is moving up the rankings and is looking like a legitimate challenger for the titleholder who happens to be managed by Larocca.

The success of Shaw leads Kallen to become noticed by the media and in time she starts to let the attention go to her head and her ego threatens to overshadow the success she and Shaw have had in the ring.

Any fans of boxing films can see that the characters are on a collision course to meet up in a big winner take all match at the films end and that there of course will be obstacles to overcome both in and out of the ring.

What sets this film apart from others in the genre is the great chemistry between Epps and Ryan. They have a very natural and realistic relationship that is all business and avoids romantic clichés that would only serve to hinder the story. This is a film about Boxing and how Kallen overcame all odds to succeed. Director Charles S. Dutton keeps the film moving and does not clutter up the film with unnecessary subplots and red herrings. The action in the ring is amazing and easily the most realistic portrayal of fighting out on celluloid in the last twenty years.

Fine supporting performances by Shalhoub and Timothy Daly round out the strong ensemble cast and make the film one of the most enjoyable surprises in recent memory.

4 stars out of 5